There are dozens and dozens of books about this subject- anything along the lines of: positive thinking, attitude, flow, our thoughts create our reality, subjective reality, thoughts are things, free thinking.
Most of these books are really good, if a wee bit new agey. I’m going to add a little detail that I’ve recently worked out, and wish to, at the very least, record as my own reminder.
Generally, we want to improve our thinking to be more: optimistic, creative, loving, appreciative, happy, fulfilling, successful, etc.
Given that practically everyone reading this has basic human needs met- freedom, food, clothing, and shelter- we’re working from a bit of an advantage here.
Usually, we believe that our thinking is not optimistic, loving, fulfilling or successful because we are missing some other state of being- i.e externally bestowed love, success, prosperity.
Often, words of wisdom include: visualize the life you want to have, visualize it in great detail, make pictures, mood boards, collages or so forth of the things you want to experience to make them real.
So of course, it’s possible to make that leap directly into enlightened, brilliant state of being and thinking, without achieving it via gradual improvements to thought processes. Eckhart Tolle describes a rather sudden shift that, for him, has been permanent. The Peace Pilgrim describes a slow transition-over the course of a decade- to her state of being. These are the only people I’ve read who describe having this happen to them as an adult. Thich Nhat Hanh, whose books are also deeply inspiring to me, seems to have experienced this shift at a very young age. Interestingly, Tolle seems to live a “normal” life – married, living in a home in Vancouver, while the others live(d) much more traditionally nun/monk lifestyles.
But most people improve their thinking it in fits and starts, if at all.
So here’s the bit I’d like to add: after you visualize the life you want to have, in great detail, etc etc, make a plan for how to get there. Make that plan with a variety of permutations. Make it travel a variety of paths. Make it like a business plan, describing in quite a bit of precision exactly how you will get from here to the desired place. Figure out 10 different paths for getting there, and describe them.
It’s the process that matters.
When I was 22, I had something happen that I can only describe as an extended peak experience. Peak experiences- that state of being as seculars describe it, would be akin to the spiritually oriented states that Tolle or the Peace Pilgrim describe. Everyone experiences peak experiences for a moment every now and then- when everything just feels wonderful. So I had the strange experience of entering an extended peak experience- it lasted six months- and then letting it go. This letting it go was a fairly conscious choice, because I couldn’t -still can’t – see how to live in that state of mind and also work in certain types of environments.
I haven’t, to my knowledge, met anyone who has had an similar experience. The only points of familiarity I’ve found for this are through reading other people’s descriptions of it- like Tolle’s and Peace Pilgrim’s.
So I see “improved thinking” from this funny vantage- I feel like I intimately know what it’s like to have it happen without effort, because that’s what had happened to me. Apropos of nothing, I woke up one day and could see auras around all the birds and plants, and felt deeply, spiritually, intensely happy and peace-filled. And because this state lasted- for months- I had plenty of time to observe it.
The key thing I learned from within it? We choose our emotions.
But here’s the funny things from outside of it- that’s not so easy to do. When seeing from inside a peak experience- from a higher vantage point- it’s easy and clear to see how living in the messy world is worth a little emotional suffering. There is so much interesting stuff to do and experience and participate in- much of which is necessary for maturity. At 22, I wasn’t experienced or mature. I’m not really that experienced or mature now, at 35, either. Knowing there is this other state of bliss that’s available- within certain limitations- is nice- but the decisions I made from within that state still make sense to me. I wanted to fully experience relationships and business and work and the systems we humans create.
I think, if there’s one thing I can do here, it’s to work from that knowledge of what it’s like to be inside that state- and figure out how to get back to it- while still living in the world. While still working and dealing with the regular world.